Philippines lawmakers extend Duterte’s emergency powers during pandmic

Manila, Aug 24 (efe-epa).- Lawmakers in the Philippines on Monday voted to extend president Rodrigo Duterte’s emergency powers to handle the health and economic crises provoked by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The measures allow Duterte to bypass parliamentary approval when issuing legislation such as the allocation of the emergency Covid funds and permit him to intervene in private enterprise if necessary.

The House of Representatives, dominated by Duterte allies, gave the green light to the so-called Bayanihan 2 package after it gained the backing of the Senate last week.

Lawmakers first handed Duterte emergency powers in March but they expired in July. Bayanihan 2, which effectively extends the period of emergency powers and tweaks the details, is to last until December.

Once signed off by Duterte, the legislation will pave the way for a fresh round of stimulus cheques valued between 5,000 to 8,000 pesos ($100-160) to low income households and unemployed workers returning from abroad.

It also allocates a further 3.5 million pesos ($700M) to buffer the efforts of city and regional authorities in the campaign to contain Covid-19.

Under the first Bayanihan law, the government launched a $3.3B stimulus program to mitigate the severe financial damage being wrought but pandemic in the Philippines, which went into economic recession for the first time in 30 years.

The decision to include powers to intervene in private companies in the emergency law had been a contentious one but it remained unused for the first three months after its approval.

The Philippines government has mandated one of the strictest and longest-lasting lockdowns in the world.

The country reported 4,686 new cases of Covid-19 on Monday, bringing the running total to 194,252 — the highest in the region. There have been a total of 3,010 Covid deaths in the Philippines. EFE-EPA

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